State's security chief takes job with contractor

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- As Missouri's homeland security director, Tim Daniel spearheaded a contract for a high-tech Web site accessible to law officers and other emergency workers. Now Daniel has resigned to go to work for the contractor, marketing the product he helped conceive.

Daniel and the president of St. Louis County-based Convergence Communications each defended his hiring in separate interviews Tuesday with The Associated Press. They denied any violation of state ethics laws.

But since Daniel's resignation last week, the state has put the project on hold. And Republican Gov.-elect Matt Blunt may cancel it entirely because of the perception Daniel had a conflict of interest.

Blunt spokesman Spence Jackson called Daniel's job arrangement "very disturbing news."

Daniel was hired by Democratic Gov. Bob Holden as the nation's first state homeland security adviser following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In 2002, Convergence Communications approached Daniel trying to sell a service that he rejected. But Daniel told the company he was interested in an Internet portal that could coordinate efforts among the state and local police, firefighters, emergency responders, hospitals and others with homeland security responsibilities.

Convergence Communications developed the product over the next several months and pitched it back to Daniel, according to interviews with Daniel and the company's president, Robert Wolf. Daniel helped draw up the specifications for the Office of Administration to solicit contracts for the service. A $307,446 contract was given July 29 to Rose International, an information technology consultant for the state, which hired Convergence Communications as its subcontractor.

A few days later, Holden lost re-election in the Democratic primary, and Daniel told Convergence Communications that he would be resigning as homeland security director, Wolf said.

Daniel said he initially accepted a job offer with another company, then changed his mind and agreed during the week of Thanksgiving to go to work for Convergence Communications, effective Jan. 1.

"I knew there would be somebody who would question it, because that's just the name of the game," Daniel said Tuesday. "But there is nothing untoward. I had nothing to do with the procurement, I was just developing the requirements and turned it over to OA."

Wolf said Convergence Communications was "very, very, very conscious of a possible conflict of interest," noting Daniel recused himself from decisions about the contract after accepting the job.

State ethics law prohibits former state employees from attempting to influence an agency over which they had supervisory control for one year after they leave office. It also bars ex-employees from performing any service for a company that relates to a "case, decision, proceeding or application" that the person was involved in as a state employee.

Mike Reid, the director of compliance for the state Ethics Commission, said he could not comment on whether Daniel's actions were appropriate.

But Blunt's spokesman expressed alarm, adding that if the information about Daniel's role in the contract is accurate, Blunt "will not move forward on this contract."

"For an individual to push a contract for a private company while being employed on the state payroll, with the knowledge that he would be working for that private company in the near future is questionable at best," Jackson said.

While no longer making decisions related to the contract, Daniel remained involved with it until his final day as homeland security director.

On Dec. 6 -- the day Holden announced Daniel's resignation -- Daniel attended a meeting in which Wolf and other company employees demonstrated the nearly finished product to state officials. Others present included Adj. Gen. Dennis Shull, who succeeded Daniel as interim homeland security director; Dan Ross, Blunt's appointee as the next chief information officer; Jill Hansen, director of the Office of Administration's Division of Information Services; and Mike Hearst, a computer information technology specialist for the agency.

Shull said he decided after the demonstration to put the project on hold because of doubts the Web site did everything it was supposed to do, and because of questions about whether it still would be necessary under Blunt's plan to consolidate the homeland security office with the Department of Public Safety. Daniel's role with the company was not a factor in the decision, Shull said.

So far, Convergence Communications has received no money for its work on Missouri's Web site. Part of Daniel's job, as the company's president of governmental sales and relations, will be to promote similar services to federal and state governments. But he will not work on the Missouri project, Wolf said.

"Frankly, we felt Tim's knowledge and experience and abilities far exceeded the risk of any type of appearance of conflict of interest," Wolf said, "and we felt by being upfront and honest we would resolve that very quickly."

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